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Episode #270 – Basics of Negotiation in Your Animal Health or Veterinary Career

The Vet Recruiter®
The Vet Recruiter®
Episode #270 - Basics of Negotiation in Your Animal Health or Veterinary Career

Joel: Welcome to “The Animal Health and Veterinary Employment Insider,” brought to you by The VET Recruiter. In this podcast, Animal Health executive recruiter and Veterinary recruiter Stacy Pursell of The VET Recruiter provides insight and practical advice for both employers and job seekers in the Animal Health and Veterinary industries. The VET Recruiter’s focus is to solve talent-centric problems for the Animal Health industry and Veterinary profession. In fact, The VET Recruiter’s mission is to help Animal Health and Veterinary companies hire top talent, while helping Animal Health and Veterinary professionals attain career-enhancing opportunities that increase their quality of life.

Today, we will be talking about the basics of negotiation in your Animal Health or Veterinary career. Hello, Stacy, and thank you for joining us today.

Stacy: Hello, Joel. As always, I’m glad to be here with you.

Joel: Stacy, what exactly will we be discussing today?

Stacy: Just like the title implies, we will be talking about negotiation, specifically the basics of negotiation. The topic is a broad one and a deep one, so we’re just going to cover the basics today and then we might dive into more of the specifics in a future podcast episode.

Joel: Stacy, why is negotiation so important?

Stacy: Joel, I am glad you asked that question. The answer is that employers want job candidates who possess negotiation skills. They prioritize candidates who possess these skills.

Joel: But do not people in the Animal Health industry and Veterinary profession work primarily with animals? They do not work a lot with other people, right?

Stacy: People who work in the Animal Health industry and Veterinary profession still interact with other people on a daily basis. In fact, those who work in a Veterinary practice interact with the owners of the animals they’re taking care of. But it does not stop there.

Joel: What do you mean?

Stacy: People might not realize it, but when you are in the hiring process and interviewing, hiring managers are observing your negotiation skills. They believe that it is an indication of how you’re going to negotiate on the job and with your boss. There are a lot of things that come up in the business world on a daily basis that require negotiation skills. There are projects and deadlines and goals, and all of these things, as I just mentioned, involve other people.

Joel: What about management positions? If someone is a manager or manages other people, they’ll need negotiation skills, too, isn’t that right?

Stacy: Yes, that is correct. When you are a manager, you are managing other people. The ability to negotiate is a leadership trait, as far as employers are concerned. If you think that you are “management material,” then you must be proficient in the area of negotiation. It is very difficult to be an effective manager or a good boss if you struggle in this area.

Let us put it this way. If an organization is trying to decide which of two employees to promote to a management position and one has good negotiation skills and the other does not, which one do you think will get promoted?

Joel: The one who has good negotiation skills.

Stacy: Right! Improving your negotiation skills is an excellent way to give yourself a competitive advantage in the workplace and the employment marketplace.

Joel: That makes sense. Where would you like to start with the basics of negotiation?

Stacy: First, I would like to mention that much of what I’ll discuss today is drawn from an excellent book on the topic, Ask for It by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever. This is a book that I believe every professional should read.

Second, I would like to point out that negotiation is not an inborn, rare, or a special trait. Anyone can become better at negotiating.

One of the reasons that people avoid it is because they view it as unpleasant, or they think it will be. As we’ll see shortly, that is not the case and you should not let that belief stop you from negotiating.

And third, I want to explain what negotiation is not. Negotiation is NOT manipulation. Successful negotiation is not manipulating other people to get what you want from them or from a situation. There is an easy way to prove this. Employers want to hire candidates who can effectively negotiate. On the other hand, they do not want to hire candidates who like to manipulate people. Negotiation is a valuable skill. Manipulation is not.

Joel: I can understand why true negotiation is not manipulation. But does a person have to be ruthless during negotiations?

Stacy: Absolutely not. That is a misnomer. Being ruthless as a negotiator is a short-sighted approach that might work every once in a while in the short term, but it never works in the long run. Instead of being ruthless, I recommend focusing on building relationships with others.

In fact, a good friend and executive in this industry once told me a story about how he was negotiating with another man and the negotiations were becoming heated. In fact, they were becoming so heated that the other man suggested they take a walk. During that walk, the man told my friend something that he still remembers to this day.

He said, “A successful negotiation is a win-win for the people involved. If it is not a win-win, then there won’t be a lasting relationship. It has to be mutually beneficial for both parties. If it is not, then it’s eventually going to fall apart.”

Joel: That sounds like good advice.

Stacy: It is great advice. Having a “win-win” mindset is the foundation of good negotiation skills. And of course, The Principle of Reciprocity is related to that. We have discussed this principle multiple times on the podcast.

According to this principle, this means when someone gives you something, you feel compelled to give them something in return. Conversely, when you first give something to someone else, then they will feel compelled to give something to YOU in return.

This is the central theme of effective negotiation: focusing on what the other person wants. That is because if you are able to give them what they want in some fashion, then it increases the chances that you’ll get what you want. In other words, successful negotiation is about aligning other people’s motivations with your priorities.

Joel: What does that mean, exactly?

Stacy: There are three steps to this process. The first step is identification, and, and by that I mean the identification of your priorities. When you are in a negotiation situation, you must have clearly defined priorities. Not “sort of defined” or “almost defined.” This identification of priorities also includes a ranking of those priorities.

Joel: Why a ranking?

Stacy: Because not everything is important, or equally important. To paraphrase the old saying, “If everything is important, then nothing is important.” The key is to identify what is most important to you and then identify everything else that is important in descending order.

It is crucial to remember that your list of priorities is a “living, breathing list.” This means that priorities can and do change, especially over time. They can even change within a short-term negotiation scenario. Negotiation is a back-and-forth interaction, a give-and-take exchange. It is often while you are actually negotiating that you discover what’s truly important to you.

Joel: What about what’s important to the other person or the other party?

Stacy: That’s the second step in the process, which is alignment. You have to know what is motivating the other person. In a negotiation, this is usually apparent because they are actually telling you what they want.

In a negotiation situation, people typically want value of some kind. All that means is there is something that is valuable to them. You have to identify what is most valuable to them. Once again, it is important to prioritize. Just like there is something that is most valuable to you, there is also something that is most valuable to them.

Joel: And that is when the alignment happens?

Stacy: Right. The key is to align these two things—what is most valuable to them and what is most valuable to you—so that everyone gets what they want. That is what I mean by alignment.

Joel: That does not sound like it is easy.

Stacy: It’s not easy . . . which is why negotiation is a valuable and sought-after skill.

And that leads to the third step, which is action. This is where you make the connection between what the other person wants and what you want. It is where you are able to satisfy your priority while at the same time meeting the other party’s motivation.

Joel: Stacy, you have used the word “motivation” a lot during our discussion of negotiation. Why is that?

Stacy: Motivation is a very powerful force. Nothing happens unless someone is motivated to do it. Motivation precedes action. In a negotiation situation, the other person or party is motivated by something. That means they want to do something to reach a desired goal or outcome.

If you are able to successfully pair your priority with the other person’s motivation, they will take care of your priority for you. In other words, they will be motivated to address your priority, because at the same time they’re addressing your priority, they’re also accomplishing what is most valuable to them.

Joel: And that is how a person gets a “win-win” situation!

Stacy: Yes, although I think some people use that term a bit too casually. There is typically some effort that goes into creating a “win-win” situation. It is not magic. You do not sprinkle fairy dust to make it happen. It can be hard work, but it is worth it in the end.

Joel: What other basics of negotiation would you like to discuss?

Stacy: There are multiple types of negotiation, but the two most common types are cooperative or collaborative and competitive. The competitive approach is an aggressive, hardball strategy. This is the kind that some people assume all negotiations are like.

But the second type is cooperative negotiation. This is a problem-solving, “win-win” approach. This might surprise you, but the cooperative approach is superior to the competitive approach, and there are two reasons for this. First, it is more likely to result in an actual agreement, and second, it’s more likely that the agreement will be beneficial for both sides.

There are four components of cooperative bargaining. They are:

  1. Asking questions
  2. Listening closely
  3. Thinking creatively
  4. Working together to solve problems


These are valuable skills to possess and skills that all employers want in the people they hire.

I would also like to cover some of the logistics of negotiation.

Joel: What kind of logistics?

Stacy: There are many logistical aspects of a negotiation, starting with its nature. As you might guess, a face-to-face interaction is best. When you interact this way, you are able to get more information and more feedback.

Joel: What about talking on the phone?

Stacy: That is the next-best option. And negotiating through writing presents the biggest challenge. However, before you think about which one is best, it is a good idea to try to find out what the people on the other side of the negotiation prefer. If you engage someone in a way that they do not prefer, they will not enter the negotiation in the best frame of mind, and that’s not what you want.

Then there is the timing of the negotiation.

Joel: What do you mean by that?

Stacy: Timing means that you want to negotiate when your bargaining power is at its highest. This is when your true value or your perceived value to the other side is at its highest. It makes sense that when you have more leverage in a negotiation, you will be able to do better.

Keep in mind, though, that just because the timing is good for you does not necessarily mean that it is good for the other side, too. So before engaging the other party in a negotiation, try to find out what is happening on the other side in terms of their schedule, their deadlines, and any other pressures they might be dealing with. If the timing is not good for them, it can reduce your chances of success.

Joel: Stacy, what about the location of the negotiation? Is that included in the logistics?

Stacy: Yes, it is, because the physical location can help set the tone. Since that is the case, you should try to select your location based on the atmosphere in which you would feel the most comfortable.

With that in mind, avoid spaces that are either too large or too small. And avoid sitting at the head of a table or at the head of a room so that you don’t give the impression that you’re trying to dictate terms to everyone else.

Joel: What if the negotiations are virtual? With the pandemic, there are fewer face-to-face meetings than they’re used to be.

Stacy: Great question. Yes, the pandemic has changed things in this area, and a virtual negotiation through Zoom or Microsoft Meetings isn’t as easy to navigate as an in-person meeting, but it’s better than a phone call and is definitely better than email. Regardless of what type of negotiation it is, eliminate as many distractions as you can before you begin.

And I’d like to wrap up today’s podcast episode about the basics of negotiation in a person’s Animal Health or Veterinary career with a few guidelines.

Joel: Great! What guidelines are those?

Stacy: There are three, and the first one is that if you start out asking for what you want, then you’ll get less than what you want. For example, if you really want $100K in a salary negotiation, do not start your negotiation at $100K. You’ll have to start higher if you want to hit your target.

Joel: Stacy, what about making the first offer?

Stacy: There are pros and cons to making the first offer. If you believe you have enough information about the negotiation and what the other side wants, then you can make the first offer. If you’re not confident that you have enough information, then you may want to let the other side make the first offer.

Our next guideline deals with counteroffers. When it comes to counteroffers, never ask if something is negotiable. Always assume that it is. If someone makes an offer to you and you ask if it’s negotiable, they’re going to say no and you’ve already lost the negotiation.

Joel: That makes sense. Stacy, what’s our third and final guideline? We’re just about out of time for today’s podcast episode.

Stacy: Our third and final one is not to concede too much early when making a counteroffer. If you do that, then the other side will expect you to make the majority of the concessions during the negotiation.

Joel: Stacy, I have one more question before we finish. Is it okay to “split difference” during rounds of negotiating? I have heard arguments both for and against that.

Stacy: It is okay, especially if it happens toward the end of the negotiation. The majority of the negotiation is already out of the way, and “splitting the difference” can appeal to each person’s sense of fairness.

Joel: Stacy, thank you so much for joining us today and for all of this great information about the basics of negotiation in a person’s Animal Health or Veterinary career.

Stacy: You’re very welcome, Joel, and thank you. It has been my pleasure, and I look forward to our next episode of “The Animal Health and Veterinary Employment Insider”!

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